Clubhouse, part 1
by Louise Dragon
Not last night, but the night before.
There came a mighty knocking at the clubhouse door.
The preacher’s daughter
Wants to come in.
What a sin!
Open the door and
Let . . . her . . .
IN! ! !
. . . A child’s tune for skipping rope
It was Tommy and Wayne and me who first found the clubhouse buried beneath a ton of pucker brush and killer vines behind the old Farnums Cemetery out on Notch Hill Road. Later, Tommy and Wayne would swear on a crossed heart that it was just them two who found it, but I was there!
I was there and I saw it all.
It was the summer of 1962, and back then big tough twelve-year-old boys simply didn’t hang out with ten-year-old girls without a good reason — no matter that I was almost as big and probably a scrap tougher than either one of those two shitheaps.
Reverend William Furman Senior had just started preaching out at the Notch Hill Church and old Reverend Willy made up a small playground behind the church so that neighborhood kids would have a place to play that summer.
It was just an old swing set and basketball hoop, but hey—in Farnums—there just weren’t too many neat places to hang out. Some folks like Tommy’s mother, thought it wasn’t too swell to have the playground so close to that old cemetery. I can still hear Sylvia Raymer (Tommy’s mother) whining about it to Reverend Willy, after church one Sunday. “I think it’s positively morbid the way you allow those youngsters free reign around here, Reverend Furman. Honestly, you of all people could show a little more respect for the dead!”
“Now Sylvie, the kids need a place to play in this town. Having them here just brings them closer to the Lord in my book,” Reverend Willy said, still pumping various hands although Sylvia had a big knot started in his line. I wanted to laugh because I could see Tommy struggling behind her. His skinny face with its jug-handle ears was about the color of the red stripe on those new Keds he was forever bragging about. I could see him trying to move her along, but with Mrs. Raymer standing stoutly, a lot like Curly Howard in a dress, and Tommy measuring about the size of Dennis The Menace, I knew Sylvia wasn’t going anywhere until she was darn good and ready! To myself, I whispered a prayer of thanks that my folks were fairly normal and not the whining type.
Anyway, kids started hanging around the new playground when school let out that summer. I’ll always remember the day we found that clubhouse.
Oh, Lord, will I ever be able to forget it?
I was shooting marbles with Tommy Raymer and Wayne Marcos that day; either they thought I was easy prey or Wayne was right about Tommy having a crush on my older sister, Molly.
Ann Delany, Jennifer Livsey, and Stephanie Nichols were skipping rope over by the swings and annoying us with their stupid little skipping songs and chants.
“Hey, why don’t you go home and do that?” Wayne yelled to the rope skippers.
“It’s a free country, last I knew,” Stephanie hollered back.
“Not last night,”
“but the night before . . .”
The rope skipping songs got louder after that, so we decided to move over to the cemetery on the other side of the church to finish our game in peace. Wayne was a little nervous about playing in the cemetery until Tommy mentioned something about the ghosts not bothering with no pansy-assed goody-goody like Waynie-pooh anyhow. Next time I looked, Wayne had followed us on over.
I was up by five of Tommy’s cat’s eyes and one or two of his whiteys and would have probably cleaned up if old man Lipinsky, the church caretaker, hadn’t stopped by to gab. Armand Lipinsky also doubled as the town drunk; he had a couple of older teen-aged sons who were always in some kind of trouble. Old man Lipinski was so bent up, he reminded me of Quassimoto, he smelled like our bathroom medicine cabinet — a toss up between Listerine and Vicks-Vapo-Rub.
Walking by with a rusty pair of lawn clippers, he paused and hoisted his baggy seated rump onto a wide gravestone to watch our game.
“Sure is nice to see kids playing around here again,” the geezer said hawking a wad of phlegm into a wrinkled blue bandanna. He stopped to examine the spit — as though he expected to find diamond dust in there — before stuffing the rag into a torn back pocket.
Wayne, still a mite jumpy, looked up at the old bird. “There was a playground here before?”
“Naw, Reverend Willy, he thought that one up. But back a couple — five -- six years, maybe, Mary used to play out here wid her cats. Had herself a little playhouse out yonder behind that scrub brush. Poor little thing’d play out here all by her lonesome, day in and day out. Nothin but cats to keep her comp’ny.”
Lipinski had our attention now, and he knew it. Slow as mole-asses he toiled out that old bandanna and honked his red-veined nose into it. After peeking inside for more treasures, the old man stuffed the rag home again and gazed maddeningly out across the gravestones.
Continued in my next post